Friday, January 07, 2005

Recapturing? Excuse Me, Sir.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said this in his opening statement yesterday at the Gonzales hearing (hat tip: The Volokh Conspiracy)

"So if we're going to win this war, Judge Gonzales, we need friends and we need to recapture the moral high ground."

That turn of phrase is quite popular these days. Let's look at that metaphor in some detail. I believe it was originally a military phrase, as in "capture the high ground." It may have come from the popular childhood game, King of the Hill, which I enjoyed as a kid. In any case there is a high ground that is valuable. It is certainly preferable to the low ground. In Graham's phrase it seems that we used to occupy the moral high ground but have since lost it.

Has someone else captured the moral high ground from us? If so, who? The serial killers? The beheaders? The men who willfully bomb women and children and non-combatants?

Our mistakes do not mean we are not better than those we are fighting. Do you think we never tortured anyone during World War II? Never hit a captured spy? Never summarily shot a surrendering Nazi officer? Of course we did. Was it widespread? Enough to be included in Saving Private Ryan without comment. Did we ever lose the ever-so-valable moral high ground from the Nazis or the Japanese Fascists? I don't think so.

We have made mistakes in this war, mistakes of judgement, mistakes of policy. We should analyse those mistakes toward the goal of not repeating them, but with the clear knowledge that we will make other mistakes. Some of them have been grave, fatal mistakes. Some will be in the future too. But this in no way cedes the moral high ground to our enemies.

Just because we are not perfect does not mean we are not good.

We try to correct our errors and punish those who did wrong, even those who are on our side. Meanwhile our enemies make every effort to increase the efficacy of their evil. This difference should not be forgotten.

Scrappleface mocks the idea of our enemies even considering the kind of reforms we routinely implement.

Bin Laden Seeks Geneva Ruling on Beheadings
(2005-01-07) -- Al Qaeda chief executive Usama bin Laden today requested a formal ruling from the U.N. Human Rights Commission on how to conduct beheadings of civilian and military prisoners in ways that comply with the Geneva Conventions.

"Al Qaeda seeks the global credibility that comes only from adherence to the Geneva Conventions," Mr. Bin Laden wrote. "Specifically we want to know what kind of cutlery is permissible, guidelines for videotaping the beheading and any advice about dealing with crowds as they burn, hang and mutilate the corpses of the infidels."

There's truth in that comedy, people.


Blogger Brian B said...

Just why haven't I heard of htis Blog until today? Damn fine writing!

1:59 PM  

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